Edvard Hagerup Bull - «Cassation» pour orchestre de chamber op. 22
(b. Bergen, 10 June 1922 – d. Oslo, 15 March 2012)
I Branle gai
Edvard Hagerup Bull obtained an organist diploma in Oslo in 1947 after studies with Arild Sandvold (1895-1984). He also studied piano with Erling Westher (1903-86) and Reimar Riefling (1898-1981) and composition with Bjarne Brustad (1895-1978) and Ludvig Irgens Jensen (1894-1969). His father, Sverre Hagerup Bull (1892-1976), was a respected music critic as well as the editor and one of the main authors of the Norwegian music encyclopaedia “Musikkens Verden”. Edvard Hagerup Bull had an impeccable ancestry for a Norwegian composer: his paternal grandfather was a cousin of Edvard Grieg, while Ole Bull was the grandfather’s uncle. The same grandfather was several times finance and justice minister under the Christian Mikkelsen government, the first Norwegian government after Norway became independent from Sweden in 1905. Between 1948 and 1953 Edvard Hagerup Bull studied composition at the Paris Conservatoire with Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) and Jean Rivier (1896-1987) and musical analysis with Olivier Messiaen (1908-92). Later on he spent two years in Berlin (1959 – 61), where he studied composition with Boris Blacher (1903-75) and analysis with Josef Rufer (1893-1985). Back in Norway he was ready to establish himself as a working composer. This was not to be, however. He encountered a great deal of indifference, even downright hostility towards his music in his own country. The latter was epitomised by the overwhelming flood of negative reviews his Second Symphony received after its premiere in Oslo in 1963. After a long crisis, and with a young family to take care of, he decided to move to France, but not before his beloved master Milhaud had reassured him that he was indeed on the right track and that the Second Symphony was an outstanding work that did not deserve the bad reviews it had received. Indeed Milhaud considered Hagerup Bull to be one of his most brilliant pupils and described him as “a musician with a solid technique and a very winning, commanding and highly imaginative personality.” Milhaud’s original words were “Je […] certifie que le compositeur norvegien Edvard Hagerup Bull […] est un musicien d’une technique solide et d’une personnalité vraiment très attachante, vigoureuse et pleine de fantaisie” (17 oct. 1963)
While he lived in Paris, Hagerup Bull received commissions from Radio France (Sinfonia Humana op. 37, Air Solennel op. 42 and Posthumes op 47) and from several outstanding French ensembles, such as Quatuor Instrumental de Paris, Ensemble Moderne de Paris and Trio Ravel. He was also the first Norwegian composer to receive two commissions from the French Cultural Ministry. The resulting works were his 5th Symphony (Sinfonia in Memoriam op. 41), and the Concerto pour flûte et orchestre de chambre op 33.
Hagerup Bull returned to Norway in 1987. His 80th year (2002) was, in Norway, marked by the world première performance of his Sinfonia Espressiva (Symphony No. 3 – written in 1964!) by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under David Porcelijn (b. 1947), as well as by a major concert of his chamber music given under the auspices of the Bergen Chamber Music Society.
On August 13th 2006, to mark the 45th anniversary of the Berlin Wall, Hagerup Bull’s Épilogue op. 26 for string orchestra (the only known piece of music written in protest against the Berlin wall) was performed at Checkpoint Charlie by the Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin conducted by Jon Bara Johansen (b. 1952) with the composer in attendance. He presented the original score of the work to the Mauermuseum. This was to be his last public appearance.
Due to blindness Hagerup Bull was unable to compose during the last eleven years of his life. After a period of illness he died in Oslo in March 2012, three months short of his 90th birthday.
Edvard Hagerup Bull is one of the great Scandinavian composers of the 20th Century, with an instantly recognizable and original voice. More than half of his production is still unpublished and only a fraction of his music has been recorded professionally. Performances of his music are, likewise, infrequent. It is thus with great pleasure that we present the first printed edition of his work ’Cassation’ from 1959.
«Cassation» pour orchestre de chamber op. 22
Edvard Hagerup Bull was admitted into the composition class of Boris Blacher (1903-1975) in Berlin in 1959. This was the direct outcome of Blacher’s perusal of Hagerup Bull’s Second Symphony op. 21, written the previous year. It thus seems plausible (although there is no documentation to support this) that “Cassation” was the first work he completed during his studies in Berlin. The same period saw the completion of his second Trompet Conerto op. 23, the woodwind quintet “Marionettes Sérieuses” op. 24, the ballet “Portrait Münchausen” op 25 and the seminal string orchestra work “Épilogue” op. 26, written in protest against the raising of the Berlin Wall.
“Cassation” can be seen as a transitional work in Hagerup Bull’s production. Although his unmistakeable voice always shone through from his first to his last work, his studies in Berlin seem to have had a decisive impact on his approach: his music became even more physical and raw, and his tonal language became more abstract and dissonant, largely eschewing long lines (in the Romantic sense), focusing instead in the intensity of the moment. In his earlier works he would often engage in long periods of sustained melody and steady tempo, while in his post-Berlin works tempo changes became more frequent and melodic lines, although always present, were sent around the instruments of the ensemble, like a musical mosaic, making it imperative to pay attention in order to follow the musical discourse.
In “Cassation” we find examples of both tendencies.
It is interesting that Hagerup Bull chose to use this archaic term as the title of this work. Cassations were a popular form in the 18. century, particularly in Germany and Austria. They were similar to Divertimentos or Serenades, only they were generally performed outdoors. This suggests that they were intended mostly as entertainment or even background music. Mozart and Haydn wrote some Cassations early in their careers, as did several other lesser composers from the period. Hagerup Bull is one of very few composers to have revisited the term in the Twentieth Century.
The work is scored for a small orchestra comprising flute, oboe, trumpet, piano and strings. It is divided in three movements of which the second is scored without violins, violas or double basses. The first movement opens with a characteristic Hagerup Bull march, followed by a lovely lyrical theme in 6/8. After this the music changes tempo, introducing new dance episodes and even a nod towards the jazz idiom, much loved by the composer. Although elements of the lyrical theme reappear and the movement concludes with the opening motif, the focus here is on spontaneous creation (as opposed to development), a compositional approach favoured by Hagerup Bull’s Paris teacher Milhaud. This procedure remains true throughout the work.
The second movement is very brief. It begins with a pastoral melody played by the flute. Soon the muted trumpet introduces a more mischievous theme with vaguely Stravinskyan echoes. After this the music becomes definitely more urban in character before, as if waking from a stressful dream, the music briefly returns to its bucolic origin.
The third and last movement is by far the longest. Although it plays uninterrupted, it can be seen as a suite within a suite, since it contains many different episodes of unrelated music. Here though, Hagerup Bull utilizes a form resembling a rondo, in which the opening material appears three times. The second occurrence is very brief (6 measures before rehearsal nr. 30). The third time, it appears in more extended form, near the end (second bar of rehearsal nr. 38). As is always the case with Hagerup Bull, when material does repeat, it always does so in an altered form.
The sequence beginning at rehearsal nr. 32 is one of Hagerup Bull’s most profound moments of inspiration: almost two minutes of uninterrupted impassioned melodic inspiration. Hagerup Bull was never a man to wear his heart on his sleeve, particularly in his music. This passage demonstrates, however, that deep expression of authentic emotions was available to him. In Hagerup Bull’s lyrical passages one always gets the sense that the composer is reminiscing about a world that is lost or, perhaps, that he is dreaming of a beautiful and harmonious utopian reality that, although not unreachable on a personal level, has forever vanished from the outer world. Hagerup Bull was, in essence, a gentle soul who, because of unfavourable circumstances, became frustrated and aggressively defensive in his professional life. While the rhythmical aspects of his music are incomparably invigorating, his lyrical moments are among the most touching and tender to be encountered in any music of his period. “Cassation” received its first performance on March 18th 1962 at the Salle Gaveau (Paris), with the Orchestre de Chambre de la Musique Contemporaine” conducted by Jacques Bondon. A live recording of the work can be heard on the CD “REFLECTIONS – Chamber Music by Edvard hagerup Bull” (VNP CD 2004 - 0061)
Remarks about this Edition
Hagerup Bull was always very frugal in his use of paper, and even more so early in his career. This may have been a direct consequence of his often precarious financial situation. The handwritten score of “Cassation” is particularly crammed and, thus, not very inviting to the eventual conductor or researcher. In this edition I have made every attempt to endow the visual picture of the music with as much air as possible. Otherwise, unless it proved impractical, I have adhered to the composer’s personal mode of notation, whereby articulations are almost consistently placed above the note.
“Cassation” is a marvellous work that, in keeping with the composer’s philosophy (supported by his revered teacher Darius Milhaud) elegantly treads the fine line between entertainment and serious art and it contains some of Hagerup Bull’s loveliest and most inspired moments. Therefore it is my hope that this edition will make it easier for conductors to feel motivated to perform it.
Dynamics that are printed in parentheses do not appear in the original score. They have been added in places where, due to a preceding period of relatively long silence in the relevant part, it seems advisable to add a dynamic indication as a reminder. The same applies to bowing signs in parentheses: they do not appear in the manuscript.
The handwritten score contains many down-bow signs on the string parts. These are often impractical and, if observed, would only contribute to a lack of flow in the music. In order to avoid confusion, in such places this edition uses the traditional marcato sign (^), which Hagerup Bull does not use otherwise. I firmly believe that this was the composer’s thought behind the often awkwardly placed down-bow signs. The places where the down-bow signs have been left are deemed appropriate, physically feasible and supportive of the musical idea. Generally, they are to be seen as marcato strokes played down-bow.
The composer made some tempo changes in connection to a performance of this work conducted by this writer in the fall of 1999:
- Rehearsal nr. 9: poco meno mosso (“like a slow foxtrot” – verbal comment from the composer). Originally it read “8th note = 8. note”
- Rehearsal nr. 10: back to the preceding tempo
At 4 mm. before rehearsal nr. 5, the original tempo indication “dotted quarter note = quarter note de la mesure précédente” is obviously erroneous. It has been changed to “dotted quarter note = half note de la mesure précédente”. The metronome indication remains: 8th note = 126.
- Second measure of rehearsal nr. 29: Doppio Movimento (originally - 5 mm. after rehearsal nr. 29: quarter note = 144
- 6 mm. before rehearsal nr. 30: quarter note = 160-168
- Rehearsal nr. 36: quarter note = ca. 48
Finally, what I believe to be a misprint has been corrected:
At rehearsal nr. 4 in the first movement, the bass part in the manuscript reads “A# - D# - D#” (directly below middle C). My long experience of performing, studying and listening to works by Hagerup Bull leads me to believe that this is simply an error, probably caused by the lack of space on the page and (perhaps) bad lighting or poor working conditions (conversations with people close to the composer make me think these are plausible causes).
It is common for Hagerup Bull to use “frozen harmony” (i.e. an isolated chord or very small collections of chords repeated in the exact same voicing throughout a passage).
At rehearsal nr. 1 we see a D# minor harmony in first inversion and an A minor 9 (+7) juxtaposed. This goes on for four bars. At nr. 4 the D# minor returns, while the A minor is replaced by the chord (bottom to top) G#-H-F-A-C (or F major – resolving downwards - on top of a rootless E major). Nothing in my experience convinces me that, in this particular measure, Hagerup Bull should suddenly decide to add a note foreign to the established harmony in the form of the downbeat A# on the bass, and then double the D# of the cellos one octave lower on beats 3 and 4. It seems much more “Hagerup Bull-like” to have the trumpet play the F# on beats 1 and 2 and to have the bass repeat the same pith on beats 3 and 4. Although I remain open to the possibility that Hagerup Bull may, indeed, have intended the bass notes on his handwritten score to be A# - D# - D#, I suspect it is a simple human error.
Ricardo Odriozola, Svelvik, 5 November 2018